ARC Readers Wanted (a.k.a. Free Book Available)

Cover of Emily Voss Box Set - A woman's silhouette against the New York skyline
Temporary Cover for the Emily Voss Box Set

I am approaching the launch of my Emily Voss novel, containing the first three stories, for a total of about 30,000 words. This makes it between half and two-thirds as long as a full-length novel.

The three stories are of approximately equal length, and if you’ve read the first story, which is free, you’ll know what to expect in terms of style and tone for the next two. Hopefully the story itself will still surprise you.

As part of the launch, there is an opportunity to get the entire novel for free.

This is not a giveaway or a competition, it’s known as as ARC, or advanced reader copy.

Basically, you get the novel for free, on the basis of a gentleman’s (gentle-person’s?) agreement that you’ll review it, particularly if you liked it.

Please note that the cover above, which is also on the ARC, is temporary as I await the final cover.

The ARC will be available to the general public until December 18th, 2020, by clicking here. For a short while afterwards, I will still be handing out “review copies” to people with a track record of reviewing the books they read, and an interest in, or focus on, urban fantasy. If that’s you, then get in touch.

Do you listen to audiobooks?

I’ve been considering recording some of my short stories as audiobooks.

I could go about this in two ways. I could either outsource the recording work to someone who is a professional voice artist, or I could read them myself with the equipment I have to hand.

A number of questions arise as a consequence of this idea:

I’m not an audiobook consumer myself, because I read extremely fast and I find listening to a story at the speed of natural language very frustrating. I’m therefore very biased against audiobooks. I find them boring, even when the story is excellent.

My first question is therefore: Do people who like my kind of writing like audiobooks?

I’ve no doubt there are many convoluted answers to this (“audiobook consumers can be people for whom reading is logistically challenging”, or “there are audiobook listeners in every genre”). While I’m sure all these have their merits, and are true in their own way, that’s not what I’m really asking. Underneath my question is : is it worth my time getting audiobooks prepared? Are there enough listeners to make it worthwhile?

Second, I wonder as to the process. Would I be better off getting a professional voice artist to narrate the book, or should I do it myself? Both answers exist in the world of blogs and YouTube. I’m quite capable of reading my own story clearly into a microphone. While I’m sure a professional could do it better, I could most likely do it well. But I have a very British accent, and that might put of the majority of my readership, which appears to be American and Canadian.

Voice actors are expensive. Just so you know. So the third question becomes: How much are people willing to pay for a short story in audiobook format? Can I realistically sell enough of those to make back (after royalties) the cost of producing the thing?

So many questions… let me know your thoughts in the comments, or through the form here, or by replying to one of my newsletters.

La Révolution: A Netflix Recommendation

When you first see the picture above, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a TV series about the French Revolution. It’s there in the title. There’s a woman wearing a mask, throwing a lit bottle of something flammable, the decor is in the process of being blown to pieces and there’s bits of very French looking architecture (Versailles, in case you’re curious), in the background.

This is not a TV series about the French Revolution.

It’s set at the beginning of the French Revolution. It’s a fantasy retelling of the events that led to the French Revolution. It uses the tropes, historical setting, nomenclature and vocabulary of the French Revolution, but that’s not what it’s about.

Here is the trailer:

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Adopted Kitten!

A miniature feline was prowling around a part of my parents home, and one day got enough courage together to go looking for food inside the house itself.

It got caught, which let us get a closer look at her, and allowed us to determine that she’s really, really pretty.

Weeks of debate ensued.

A decision was finally taken.

The cat stays.

More Adventures in Fiverr Cover Design

Following my less-than-excellent first experience with third party cover designers, I decided to give it another go.

This experience was more thought-through than the last one. I put a lot more effort into the process myself. Nevertheless, I wasn’t satisfied with the results and so I defaulted to another solution: do it yourself.

Not to be embarked upon lightly, this involved reading and watching videos about cover design, getting rid of my preconceived notions of how I wanted the cover to look, watching a ton of videos about graphic design in GIMP (because you don’t buy professional software for a one-off project) and scouring free image repositories for assest I could use (because you don’t sign up to depositphotos for a one-off project).

I’m undecided on the final result, but it’s at least more appropriate for the book. You be the judge.

Read on to hear about the process, and to see the results…

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Hello from Budapest

For reasons I won’t go into, I am presently in Budapest. The way things are going, I will most likely be able to write more here than I have over the past few weeks, which I am looking forward to because things have been slow going.

I’ve yet to find my feet, and am writing this from a charming little coffee shop terrace where social distancing is not too painful and I don’t feel the need to slop ethanol-laced gel over my hands every few minutes. I have yet to take any decent pictures, but this is not my first time here, so allow me to share one I took a few years ago when I was here in winter!

An image of the Hungarian Parliament building shrouded in fog and illuminated with spotlight during a winter night.
The Hungarian Parliament in the Winter Fog

So. Good News… You’ve Caught This Virus…

My brain did a weird inversion of the whole coronavirus thing a couple of weeks ago and had what I thought at the time was a great idea.

I tried to put that idea to paper in the form of a short story.

After writing something I was not at all happy with, I decided the idea was not so good after all.

But perhaps the idea is fine, just not in my hands. My brain won’t stop grafting new ideas onto this one, turning it into some epic nonsense of a multi-novel series, with occasional subconscious plagiarising from Maze Runner. I had

So instead of giving you a story, I’m going to dump the idea here. Your imagination can write the rest.

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Adventures in Fiverr – Book Cover Designers

There are lots of things I’m not particularly good at that I do anyway. Making my own book covers has been one of those things. They’re not particularly good, but my ‘books’ are really only short stories and I was giving them away for free.

While I’m fine with giving away some of my work to connect with an audience that likes my writing, I’m not so sure about spending money to put a cover on a free piece of writing.

Perhaps I was wrong about that, but it’s hard to know.

I’ve got a series of shorts coming together, with a jeans-and-leather wearing female exorcist with a bit of an attitude problem as the main character. I wanted a cover and after a few hours playing around, I decided I wasn’t good enough at cover design to do it myself.

I turned to Fiverr.

About a week later, my opinion of my own cover design skills has gone up considerably.

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Still not entirely here

I launched this site a while back with a hidden agenda.

I figured that if I wanted to climb the learning curve and learn how to write decent fiction in my preferred genre, I ought to read as much of it as I could. I can be quite a glutton when it comes to reading and the budget necessary to purchase that many books looked significant. To remedy this I figured I’d review books, get a reputation as a reliable reviewer and try to get some free copies of upcoming works from the various platforms that specialize in that.

That worked exactly as planned. Unfortunately the plan sucked.

To list the advantages: I read a great deal, discovered some new and exceptionally good authors that I enjoyed reading and did so without spending (too much) money. I saw how others were crafting their works and was able to identify things that worked, some that worked perhaps less well. I saw what worked commercially, and was able to identify the small subset that might work, commercially, for me.

On the other hand, money is not the only currency we have, and time is far scarcer. There were faster ways to gain that understanding than writing reviews in the dead of night when my daughter had finally found sleep.

Between my full-time job, new arrivals in the family and trying to read all these new books, there was simply no time for writing. You only have to read the first chapter of a book on writing, or the first couple of posts on a blog by any competent writer to learn that while reading is great, writing is a learning-by-doing kind of activity and without practice you’re going to get nowhere.

I soon dropped the whole reviews website concept to spend at least a little of what time I had left at the end of the working day on writing short stories. That got me somewhere (I have a few nice letters from editors explaining that various stories are good but… too long, too short, too dark, etc. I have a not insignificant number of form rejections), but not where I wanted to go.

Split over too many projects and with too many demands on my time, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I also had nowhere to post my own work where it might at least garner a little feedback, provide a birthplace for my writing hopes and allow me to speak to at least one fan, even if it’s a member of my own family.

The advice from modern authors is clear. Write lots, write often, interact with your readers, gather feedback, learn from your mistakes.

Time for a little course correction.